Su Min before marriage, about 1986 (Photo Courtesy of Su Min)
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Su Min travels around China to find freedom and happiness in her life.

By Sophia Wu

Su Min, a retired woman, has been travelling alone since September 2020. From Zhengzhou to Sanya, the 57-year-old has so far covered over 10,000 km.

Su wants to escape from a repressive marriage by travelling.

Born and educated in Tibet, Su returned to her hometown Henan with her parents after finishing high school.

After that, she lived in Henan for decades and had many jobs such as a factory worker, a cook, and a supermarket worker.

She met her husband through a matchmaker in 1986, and she married within a year. After marriage, Su gradually found her husband stingy.

“At first I was jobless, and he gave me money to cover my living expenses and checked my spending every month. But I could not remember everything, so he began to question whether I gave money to my brothers,” Su recalls. 

Later, Su worked as a dressmaker and became financially independent. But her husband’s pickiness made her feel depressed at home.

“I was born an outgoing person. But my husband loved picking on every word I said. I became depressed and stopped talking to him and other people,” she says.

From 2016, Su helped take care of her twin grandchildren. She had to stay at home most of the day. 

“When I took care of my grandchildren, I had to face my husband every day at home. That made me feel worse,” Su says.

Her desire to leave her family grew stronger.

Embark on a Journey

Su watched some videos about self-driving travel on the internet in 2019. Then she had the idea of doing a tour herself.

“I bought a car after retirement because I really wanted to get rid of the life of frequent quarrels at home. I wanted to give it a try,” Su says.

“This is a carefully planned escape,” she says.

Su started practicing, driving her Volkswagen Polo for short trips in neighboring attractions such as the Zhongyuan Tower in the summer of 2020.

Su Min’s self-driving tour equipment (Photo Courtesy of Su Min)

Su’s grandchildren went to kindergarten in September 2020. The grandmother was ready to start her journey. 

Su quickly bought a roof tent and other travel equipment such as a portable energy storage device and a stove online.

“At first, my daughter was worried. I showed her those self-driving tour videos on the internet, and I told her my travelling would be helpful for family harmony. She finally agreed,” Su says.

On September 24, 2020, Su departed from Zhengzhou and headed south.

Su did not have a clear plan for her journey.

“When I set off, I drove on a road passing through Xi’an, so I went there. Then an old friend in Chengdu invited me. I went directly to Chengdu and spent more than 20 days there,” Su says.

Apart from gatherings with her old friend, Su met new friends in Chengdu.

“I went to see a recreational vehicle show and met campers who organized a trip to Yunnan. So, I joined them,” Su says.

Su travelled to more than 20 cities in Yunnan. The beautiful scenery left a deep impression on her.

Su Min at Erhai Beach in Yunnan, Nov 2020 (Photo Courtesy of Su Min)

She took a ferry trip to Hainan with her car in January 2021. “The weather in the south is very warm, and I see blue skies,” Su says with a smile.

Difficulties in Travel 

Su also had difficult times during the journey.

Su travels on a tight budget. She rarely visits attractions that charge entrance fees. She just walks around.

Su Min took a ferry ride to Hainan in January 2021 (Photo Courtesy of Su Min)

There were times when she did not have enough money. Su chose to live at a campsite instead of going out. She waited for her pension to be credited into her bank account, then she continued her journey.

Su also had difficulties when looking for campsites in Yunnan.

“One day I found an ecological parking lot on the internet. The time was after 7 p.m., and the site was in the mountains, 51 km away from where I was,” Su says.

Su arrived at the parking lot around 9 p.m., and she found that there were only two houses. The houses were lit and with tables and chairs inside. But there was no one except Su.

“Feeling scared, I immediately drove away. There were no signals in the mountains. I drove for 40 minutes before spotting a village. Then after 20 minutes, my mobile phone was able to navigate. Finally, I got on the highway and found a site to rest,” Su says.

Su always avoided taking highways because the car used to be linked to her husband’s payment card. One day, Su took a highway trip and spent RMB ¥81 (US $12.6). 

Her husband asked her to pay back the fee the next day. Su was very angry and removed his card from the car. 

That was the first and last contact Su had with her husband since she started her journey.

New Scenery

Su makes vlogs to subsidize travel expenses from click rewards and shares her travel life with netizens.

Su Min has been traveling around China by driving since 2020 (Photo Courtesy of Su Min)

In the summer of 2020, she began to make some short videos with her mobile phone. In October, she bought a second-hand GoPro and learned production skills online.

Su opened her account “50-year-old Auntie Self-driving Tour” on Douyin, one of the most popular short video sharing platforms in China and other social media platforms to update her activities. On Douyin, she has nearly 300,000 fans.

Su has made many friends by travelling and vlogging. When travelling in Yunnan, friends driving recreational vehicles protected her car from strong wind. In Sanya and Wenchang, she lived with fans who follow her on social media for a few days.

Su thinks that travel brings her sunshine and happiness.

Su Min’s travel photo-before going to Hainan, Dec 2020 (Photo Courtesy of Su Min)

“Now I am free and don’t need to be a free babysitter at home. I feel good, and I haven’t thought about going home yet.”

“Now I am free and don’t need to be a free babysitter at home. I feel good, and I haven’t thought about going home yet,” Su says.

Edited by Sarah Ryou
Sub-edited by Alice Wang